Frozen berries recalled because of hepatitis scare
Townsend Farms is recalling bags of a frozen fruit mix commonly used in smoothies because they could be contaminated with the hepatitis A virus, the company said in a statement.
Townsend's Organic Antioxidant Blend is suspected in an outbreak of the virus that has affected five Western states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fourty-nine people have been infected with hepatitis A, and 11 of them have been hospitalized as of Monday. Infections have been reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, the CDC website said Tuesday.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said in a news release that 12 suspected cases of Hepatitis A linked to the frozen berries have been confirmed in the centennial state.
The suspected infections were reported in Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Clear Creek, Douglas, Eagle, El Paso and Jefferson counties.
Nineteen of the 25 ill people interviewed by the CDC reported eating the Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend.
The fruit mix with contaminated ingredients was sent to Costco stores and Harris Teeter stores. At Costco, the recalled codes include T012415 through T053115; consumers can find these on the back of the package near the words "BEST BY." Harris Teeter packages have "BEST BY" codes of T041615E or T041615C.
The outbreak has been traced to pomegranate seeds from Turkey that are in the Townsend Farms fruit mix, according to the company statement. The mix contains pomegranate seeds and other produce from Argentina, Chile and the United States.
"There is no indication that cherries and other berries are contaminated," said William E. Gaar, an attorney for Townsend Farms.
State health departments, the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC continue to investigate. The company was notified about the outbreak Thursday by the CDC, which sent investigators to the Townsend Farms processing plant in Fairview, Ore., Gaar said.
Hepatitis A is usually transmitted via contaminated food or water, or by someone who's infected, according to the Mayo Clinic website. Frequent hand-washing is recommended to limit the spread of hepatitis A.
The highly contagious infection inflames the liver and limits its ability to function.
"Mild cases of hepatitis A don't require treatment, and most people who are infected recover completely with no permanent liver damage," the Mayo Clinic website says.
Severe cases can lead to liver failure and death, according to the World Health Organization. There are an estimated 1.4 million cases of hepatitis A annually worldwide.
Consumers who may have eaten the contaminated product should contact their doctor, and the product should be thrown away immediately.
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